Hankr looks to expand food-finding app beyond Milwaukee

A Milwaukee startup is trying to make people rethink the way they dine, showing photos of food on the app first before naming the restaurant it comes from.

The app, called Hankr, was thought up by Madison resident John Kuehl, who thought people often think more about the name and atmosphere of a restaurant rather than what they’re in the mood for. The company’s motto is “See. Eat. Love.”

“The food is usually the last thing you see, so we made Hankr to help people make better decisions on what they want to eat,” Hankr partner Al Krueger said.

Hankr tags all of its plates with what Krueger calls “mood words,” such as “crunchy” or “spicy” so consumers can try and find the food they’re craving.

The prospective customer can then click on the image to see which restaurant makes which plate, along with their other menu items, location, hours and how to reserve a table. Diners can even pick the time of day they’re looking for food to see which places will be open.

The app, which launched this month, was built by Knihter, a Milwaukee-area startup that creates apps. The Hankr app is only active in Milwaukee right now, but it’s working towards an expansion to Madison and other markets by the end of 2017.

Hankr makes money through a monthly or annual fee from the restaurants shown on the app. Krueger said that in their research and development they found that many restaurant owners did not lack the funds for marketing and advertising, but simply lacked the time to take away from day-to-day restaurant operations.

“We are trying to help make marketing easy for them, make the app free for the consumer, and keep the app clean and as easy to use as possible,” Krueger said.

Many food-finding apps use an organic or social media approach for its images, meaning the customers upload their own photos on restaurants’ pages. Hankr, however, stays away from that and takes all the pictures for the restaurant owners.

“Not saying that it happens, but there is nothing that would stop a competitor from coming in and messing up a plate and sharing that image,” Krueger said. “We don’t want that to happen. Phone images just aren’t as clean.”

Hankr goes to each location featured on their app and takes photos of up to 25 plates, which they share with restaurants as long as they continue to subscribe as a customer. In doing so, Hankr uses natural light to capture images of the food exactly as is.

“We don’t want our restaurants we work with to strive for perfection, we want the dish to look the way it does when they give it to a customer,” Krueger said.
And while the company says it wants to grow outside Milwaukee, and add features such as geo-location, they want to keep the “clean app feel.”

Hankr said they have had success in the Milwaukee market and is striving to grow around the state, and eventually nation-wide. With an expansion they are looking to include geo-location features, but no matter how much they grow they want to keep the “clean app feel.”

“We could very easily do featured dishes, pop-up advertisements; we obviously want to create a sustainable company with good jobs here in Milwaukee,” Krueger said. “But we feel that if we have a great user experience we will be able to drive revenue in a positive way without having to muddy it up. We are very motivated to continue the clean feel of the app.”

— By Jordyn Noennig,